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Introducing and Implementing All the Components of a Comprehensive Literacy Program
September 2011 • Sue Jackson

With this Teaching Tip of the Month we have introduced a new format that will concentrate on a broader spectrum of tips and ideas for teaching. For the first tip of the year, I thought it would be helpful to provide a step-by-step outline for those of you asking, how do I introduce and implement all the components of a comprehensive literacy program?

At the beginning of the school year, it is imperative to set procedures, routines, and expectations so that your literacy program runs smoothly and effectively. Introduce the components of your literacy program slowly and gradually. Lessons will take longer initially because you are modelling practises and developing expectations.

Effective literacy instruction occurs in an extended block so students have ample time to practice skills and strategies being learned. The key to scheduling is to include time every day for all the major literacy components. You may want to create a Reader's Workshop and a Writer's Workshop block in your schedule. In Reader's Workshop, you will have time to explore comprehension strategies, word solving strategies, vocabulary acquisition, and fluency through the gradual release of support. During Writer's Workshop, a balance between teacher-directed writing (text-type studies and reader responses) and student-selected writing is essential. Both are important for the development of skills, knowledge, confidence, and proficiency in writing. You may decide to conduct a text-type study for a few weeks and then provide a block of time for self-selected writing.

The charts below outline how to gradually add new components to your program. This will help you get started and transition from whole group sessions to small group instruction.

Week 1:
Reader's Workshop:
  • Introduction of Read Aloud—modelling of Self-Monitoring Strategy
    - promote attentive listening of text and provide opportunities for students to discuss text
    - teach oral language strategies (e.g., Think-Pair-Share, Turn and Talk, Inside/Outside Circle)
    - create anchor charts for what 'accountable talk' looks like and sounds like
  • Introduction of Independent Reading
    - conduct mini-lessons on choosing 'just right' texts, text shopping, when to abandon a text, etc. (Literacy Place Teachers: see 'Mini-lessons for Independent Reading')
    - provide students with a Reader's Notebook-demonstrate how to complete a Reading Log and how to respond to texts
    - collect data about students' reading interests and attitudes towards reading using Interest Inventories and Attitude Surveys
    - promote reading for a sustained period of time (use clock timer for younger students)
    - conference with individual students to ensure they are reading appropriate texts
Writer's Workshop:
  • Introduction of Self-Selected Writing—getting ideas
    - conduct mini-lessons on how to get started with self-selected writing (e.g., brainstorming categories and topics, making a personal topic list, developing a focus, using personal experiences)
    - provide students with a Writer's Notebook (4–8) or Writing Folder (K–3)
    - collect a sample of student writing (e.g., recount of an event) to determine instructional needs

Week 2:
Reader's Workshop
  • Continuation of Read Aloud–modelling of Self-Monitoring Strategy
    - Primary Teachers, if you have completed your Read Aloud text, check out other titles for modelling strategy use
  • Continuation of Independent Reading
    - set expectations for appropriate behaviour and procedures to follow during Independent Reading time
    - promote reading for a sustained period of time
    - conduct conferences with individual students—collect data about oral reading, recall of text read, comprehension strategies
  • Introduction of Shared Reading
    - use your text over a period of five days so that students develop fluency in reading the text as well as a deeper understanding of the material
    - choose a daily focus for reading (e.g., comprehension strategy, word solving, text features, etc.)
    - model and practice the strategy of self-monitoring
Writer's Workshop
  • Pre-Assessment of the Text-type Writing
    - determine the text-type to be studied (e.g., persuasion, narrative, explanation, description, procedure, poetry, retell) and the form of the text (e.g., persuasive-brochure)
    - provide a brief introduction to the text-type and brainstorm ideas with students
    - ask students to write the text independently-analyze students' writing to focus upcoming instruction (e.g., What do students already know about the text-type and form? What are my next steps for instruction?)
  • Continuation of Self-Selected Writing—starting to write
    - conduct mini-lessons on choosing a writing form, organizing ideas, and drafting a piece
    - confer with individual students or groups, observe skills and strategies being used, and determine what additional support is required

Week 3:
Reader's Workshop
  • Continuation of Read Aloud
  • Continuation of Independent Reading
  • Continuation of Shared Reading
    - choose a text for shared reading that is a 'mentor text' or model of the type of text-type writing students will complete during Writer's Workshop
  • Introduction of Working with Words
    - introduce five high-frequency words found in this week's Shared Reading text
  • Begin Guided Reading (if independent practises are running smoothly)
    - students apply strategy of self-monitoring
Writer's Workshop
  • Continuation of Self-Selected Writing (primary)
  • Introduction of Text-type Writing (junior and senior)
    - conduct Modelled/Shared writing sessions to create a class sample of the text-type
    - involve students in the writing process
    - provide small group guided writing sessions when needed

Sue Jackson, a classroom teacher for 20 years, is an enthusiastic and innovative author, speaker, consultant, and educator.

Scholastic Education
National Literacy Consultant

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Also available online, previous Teaching Tips for
Scholastic Education resources:

Literacy Place for the Early Years (K–3)

Moving Up with Literacy Place (4–6)

Stepping Up with Literacy Place (7–9)

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